Botanical name: Azadirachta indica
Common names: Neem, nim, Indian lilac, nimmi, limbo, limda
Neem is a native tree of India, a tropical tree especially suited to semi-arid conditions. It is now grown in many Asian countries and in the tropical regions of the western hemisphere. Neem is considered to be part of India's genetic bio-diversity. It is a medium large tree having short, straight bole, furrowed, dark brown to gray bark, and dense rounded crown of pinnate leaves.
Native to India and other south Asia countries, Neem is widely planted and naturalized in semi-arid areas throughout Asia and Africa. In Haryana, the Neem tree will be found in each and every village. The forest department of Haryana is actively involved in continued plantation of Neem tree, keeping in view it medicinal and commercial value.
Neem is an evergreen of the tropics and sub-tropics. It belongs to the family Meliaceae and is becoming increasingly popular for its insect repellant traits and unique property of inhibiting the nitrification process in the soil. In India, Neem grows in the plains and in areas up to an elevation of 1850 m. In its introduced range, Neem is cultivated from sea level to an altitude of 1500 m. Neem is tolerant to most soil types including dry, stony, shallow soils, lateritic crusts, highly leached sands and clays.
With an extensive and deep root system, the hardy Neem can grow and flourish even in marginal and leached soils. The Neem tree flowers between February and May. The honey-scented white flowers, found in clusters are a good source of nectar for bees. Neem fruits are green drupes which turn golden yellow on ripening in the month of June, July and August in India.
The termite resistant neem timber is used as a building material and in making furniture and farm implements. The bark yields tannin and gum. The amber-hued gum is used as a dye in textiles and traditional medicines. Leaves are used as fodder and green manure. Neem derivatives such as Azadirachtin, nimbicidin and a host of other compounds are now used in medicines and commercial pesticides. Many bioactive ingredients have been identified and isolated, the most important ones being azadirachtin and meliantriol.
The most active, currently identified ingredient of Neem is 'azadirachtin'. It finds applications in Neem -based pesticide formulations which are safe, natural, bio-degradable, manageable at the farmer's level and environment friendly, unlike chemical and synthetic pesticides which leave behind residues polluting air, water and soil.